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Major blaze at 800-year-old St Peter's Church in Ropley
Updated 3:54pm Thursday 19th June 2014 in News
Firefighters are battling to salvage what they can of a medieval church after a fire ripped through it this morning.
Up to 80 firefighters are tackling the blaze at the 800-year-old church in Ropley.
St Peter's Church by Echo reader Alan Thomas.
Villagers watched in horror as the historic St Peter’s Church near Winchester, went up in flame
The church caught fire hours after people living nearby experienced power surges.
Villagers have been gathering at the church grounds to offer what help they can.
Karen Bunce got married in 2006 and lived in the village for 19 years. She said: “It is devastating the centre of the village is burning down."
Her cousin Darren was due to marry his fiancee Alicia Hardy at the church on Saturday.
Twelve fire engines and up to 80 crew have spent this morning tackling the blaze, which destroyed the roof of the historic building.
At the height of the fire black smoke could be seen as far away as the A31 Alresford bypass.
Royston Such, who has been the vicar of St Peters for 24 years, stood in the sidelines as the fire ball was put out.
He said: "It's absolutely devastating. The building has so many memories attached to it, we have a book called 'A Years Mind' which we use to commemorate people who have died in the village.
"We are due to have a wedding here the day after tomorrow.
"It's not just my church, it's every bodies church. It hasn't sunk in, and it doesn't feel real. It's utterly catastrophic."
One resident, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s terrible. I looked out of my window at 11.45pm yesterday and didn’t see anything but could smell faint smoke.
"My internet and electricity kept surging last night.”
Terry Neilson, of Vicarage Lane, added: “I came up to get a paper this morning and saw smoke so wandered down out of curiosity and saw this.
“The church has been at the heart of the village for 800 years. Hopefully the stone will be saved.”
Vicar of St Peter's Church, Royston Such.
Locals gathered to watch as firefighters attempted to put out the blaze, which destroyed the roof. The clock is still working.
A tea and coffee station has been set up by villagers for the emergency services. Sections of the roof continue to crumble and fall into the remains of the church.
A welfare station for firefighters has also been set up in the church grounds.
An investigation is under way into what caused the blaze.
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